1636 The China Venture – Snippet 10
“I thought that when I graduated high school, I no longer needed to fear being called to the principal’s office,” said Jim Saluzzo.
His father, the principal at the high school at which Jim now taught, smiled. “You have a visitor.”
“Important enough to call me out of class?”
“I’ll let you be the judge of that. He’s in the conference room.”
Jim strode over and opened the door. “You know, I have office hours on–” He broke off when he realized exactly who was in the room.
The spymaster made a wave of acknowledgment. “Do come in, Mister Saluzzo, and shut the door behind you.”
Jim did so. The only other person in the room was Eric Garlow.
“I am sorry that I couldn’t wait until your office hours, or even until the final bell today, but my job requires a lot of travel on occasion.”
“I understand,” said Jim. “With Eric here, I assume that this is about China.”
“Teaching high school apparently has not dulled your deductive faculties, Mister Saluzzo. At least, not yet.”
“I’m really sorry, Don Francisco, but I don’t think it makes sense for me to join this mission to China. I’d be with the army if the higher-ups hadn’t decided that I was more useful training the next generation of technicians and scientists than operating a radio. And if I were in China, I couldn’t do that, right? And there are personal considerations, too. I am engaged to Martina Goss, and we plan to get married and start a family. At least once the war is over.”
Don Fernando held up three fingers. “You bring to the China mission a combination of three characteristics that no one else offers.”
He bent down one finger. “First, you are trained in mathematics and physics, and therefore can master astronomical calculations.”
He folded the second finger. “Second, you are a Catholic, and thus the Jesuits in Macao and Beijing are not likely to all be of one mind as to how to deal with you.”
The third finger came down. “Finally, you are an up-timer, and thus have a far different view of the relationship between religion and science than any down-time Catholic is likely to be comfortable with. So that means that you are willing to publicly advocate a heliocentric view of the solar system even if that differs from the view of the Catholic Church, here-and-now. I am correct in that assumption, am I not?”
“Yes, you are,” Jim acknowledged. “Of course, it’s the view of Kepler and Newton that I would publicly advocate; not just that the planets go around the sun, but that they do in elliptical orbits driven by universal gravitation acting according to the inverse square law. And the twentieth century Catholic Church didn’t see any inconsistency between that formulation and Holy Scripture….. Mind you, I am ignoring the issue of orbital perturbation….”
Nasi held up his hand. “I don’t need to know exactly how to construct a mathematical model of the Solar System, just that you are willing to teach a more modern view without regard to whether the teaching is accepted by the present-day Catholic Church.”
“Which brings us to China. Eric?”
Eric cleared his throat. “The emperor rules by the so-called Mandate of Heaven. A very important part of demonstrating that he has the Mandate of Heaven is that the official calendar–and there are no unofficial calendars–accurately predicts the movements of the heavenly bodies. The Jesuits owe their present position at court to the fact that their astronomers can make more accurate predictions than their Chinese counterparts could. We can do better, and because of that–and because we have no religious agenda–we think that we can obtain not only a position at court ourselves, but also a privileged trading position. “
“And with trade will come ideas, eventually, and perhaps reform,” Don Francisco added. “But this truly rests on you.”
“And if nothing changes, the Manchu will invade in 1644, and there will be decades of civil war in China before they fully establish their rule. With a strong position at court, we may be able to help the Ming improve their military footing enough to discourage the Manchu from attacking, and save a lot of lives.”
Jim raised his eyebrows. “But you aren’t doing this because you are so concerned about the Chinese, are you?”
“No,” said Don Francisco, “we want the Chinese as trading partners.”
“Did you know that at the time of the Battle of Hastings, the Chinese were producing something like 125,000 tons of iron a year?” Eric interjected. “Now, it’s probably around 200,000 tons, at least if I’m remembering the papers I read correctly.
“They also produce silk, zinc, graphite, mercury–” He stopped short when Don Francisco made a quelling gesture.
“As a member of the mission, you will of course have a privileged position in which to benefit from the new trading relationships. And even on the present, somewhat –” Don Francisco searched for the term he wanted–“attenuated basis, European merchants have earned substantial profits from the China trade.”
“One thing, I admit, that hasn’t been changed by the Ring of Fire–teacher’s pay is lousy,” said Jim. “But I figure that given my educational background, there are going to be opportunities here, too.”
“Absolutely,” said Don Francisco. “But do you really think that either your teaching at the high school, or any of those alternative opportunities, will have as great an impact on European, even world affairs, as your further opening China to the West?”
Jim stroked his chin. “I see your point, Don Francisco, Eric; really I do. But I have an obligation to the high school….”
“Not a problem,” said Don Francisco. “The mission won’t leave until the present school year is over. You can get things set up so that someone else can run them while you are on… sabbatical.
“It’s not as though you’re the only possible physics teacher. Mac Clements has a masters in Physics, and he taught at the high school before the Ring of Fire. He’s in Magdeburg now, with the military, but we can get him back next year if it will get you on board.”
“Did you ask him to go to China?”
“No, he’s with Disciples of Christ, so he’d be considered a heretic by both the Catholics and the Protestants in Asia. And he has two young children. There’re also Chuck Fielder and Landon Reardon, also with physics degrees, but with similar impediments.”
Jim started to say something, thought better of it. “Is it okay if I discuss this with my fiancée, and my father and mother? My sister, too?”
“Absolutely, but it must not go further than them, please make that clear.” Don Francisco paused. “As I said, I am going out of town, but if you have further questions before I return, direct them to Eric here. Oh, if you were thinking that you would have to leave your fiancée behind, let me reassure you: Martina may accompany you; the mission would cover her passage and her necessary living expenses in China. Of course, if she wants to buy presents for all her friends and relatives, that will come out of her own pocket.
“And rest assured that we are not going to neglect the medical needs of the mission. If we can’t find an up-timer with suitable skills who’s willing to go, we will certainly be able to provide a suitable down-timer. Not Balthasar Abrabanel, but one of similar experience.”
Don Francisco stood, and offered his hand; Jim took it automatically. “It has been a pleasure to meet you, Jim. You are everything we had hoped for; please give our proposal your careful consideration and let us know if there is anything we can do to, what’s that American term? Clinch the deal.”
“If Jim goes, I’ll go,” said Martina Goss. “In fact, I want to have a job on the mission. Surely, you’ll need someone to manage the correspondence? I’m in the Consular Office right now, so I should be considered qualified. And before it leaves, I can help with the research.”
“I’ll speak with Nasi and Piazza,” Eric Garlow promised. “You had to know about the mission anyway, given Jim’s significance, so I can argue that including you would reduce how many people need to be told what’s going on.”
Martina still lived with her mother, Mary, but of course Jim was over frequently. Once Jim Saluzzo and Martina were married, either Jim would move in with her, or Martina would move in with the Saluzzos. Right now, Jim and his sister Vicki were still living with their parents–real estate was extremely expensive in post-RoF Grantville.